Topical Steroids for Eczema: What You Need to Know

What are topical steroids for eczema? Are they safe? Can they control eczema flares? Find out your all answers here…

Topical steroids, also known as topical corticosteroids, are common medication for eczema. They are directly applied to the skin to reduce inflammation and itching. From creams to lotions, topical steroids are available in many forms for eczema. However, they are different from steroids for bodybuilding or contraceptive pills.

Topical steroids are important to manage eczema as they reduce flare ups, thereby ensuring relief.

When to Use Topical Steroids for Eczema?

Topical steroids are usually recommended for eczema flare ups. It should be used to treat the flares. Sometimes, a physician prescribes them to be used for 2 consecutive days a week on the areas of flare ups. This is termed as “weekend therapy” to minimize the continuous flare cycle.

How to Use Topical Steroids for Eczema?

They are used 1-2 times a day when flare ups are active. However, the application should be once a day for the kids under 12 years. Make sure to use them in a correct amount or as directed by your physician.

It should be applied with clean hands. Sometimes it is difficult to judge the right quantity of the steroid to be used. Here you can use your fingertip unit or FTU to measure the right amount of the steroid. FTU is the cream’s length from the tip of the index finger to the first crease of the finger. Here is a guideline to use the topical steroids according to the prescribed FTU.

Affected Part of the Skin Finger Tip Unit
Both sides of one hand One fingertip unit
One foot Two fingertip units
One arm Three fingertip units
One leg Six fingertip units
Chest and abdomen Seven fingertip units
Back and buttocks Seven fingertip units

If you are in doubt, contact your pharmacist or doctor.

What are the Strengths (Potencies) of Topical Steroids for Eczema?

Topical steroids are available as ointments, lotions, scalp applications and creams. On the basis of strengths or potencies, they are categorized into…

• Mild
• Moderately potent
• Potent
• Extra Potent

To decide what potency is suitable for you, a physician will factor in your age, eczema, spot and other treatments you are using. Milder preparations are usually suggested for the face, genital organs and other sensitive areas. They are also prescribed for the infants.

The duration of the steroid is determined by the severity of the eczema and the strength of the topical steroid. Well, your physician will guide you on this.

Are They Safe to Use?

Topical steroids are effective for eczema, especially when they are used as per instructions. The risk of side effects is likely to occur when the potency of the cream is not suitable for the age of a patient or a degree of eczema. For example, using strong topical steroids may not be safe on sensitive areas or on the kids. The safe amount of topical steroids for such areas are 0.05%, 0.1%, 0.5% or 1%.

They should be used for the time suggested by your doctor. Using them for over long periods of time may lead to skin thinning, stretch marks, or the skin can lose its elasticity. Sometimes, an improper use can trigger hair growth on the affected areas or rashes around the mouth.

Make sure to use them under medical supervision and properly. They are effective and safe when used with good skin care.

Bottom Line:

Topical steroids make an effective treatment for eczema. However, they should be chosen carefully according to the age and severity of one’s eczema. It is better to use them under doctor’s supervision.

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